Do You Ever Plan to Not Own a Car?

Today as I walked to my car after a lunch out, my friend asked how my car was holding up. The car in question is a 2003 Camry XLE, and it’s doing great, at least partially due to the fact that I work from home and rarely drive more than 10 minutes away. My hope is that it’ll last until 2023 when teleportation is invented.

Another friend has a theory that in the near future, there will be so many car-sharing and Uber-like services that it will become far more cost effective for most people to not own a car.

So at the time I jotted down the idea of “using Uber for a week instead of driving” to test his theory. I didn’t do it, but I think I can run the numbers:

  • I typically fill up my gas tank no more than once a month. This averages out to around $10/week.
  • I don’t owe any money on my car, so my only annual expenses are property tax, oil changes, and maintenance. Let’s say this averages out to be another $10/week.
  • Car insurance is about $12/week.
  • TOTAL: $32/week

I typically use my car for 1 errand each week and up to 3 random short trips (meals, game nights, etc). So that would be a total of 8 Uber rides, each around 10 minutes. A rough calculation is $1/minute, so that’s a total of $80 per week.

$32 is much lower than $80 per week. Plus, I would have to wait a few minutes for each Uber to arrive–that’s time lost. And I didn’t account for the rare times each year when I travel across the country by car. That would require renting a car, which is expensive.

At the same time, perhaps it isn’t fair to exclude the money I spent to own my Camry in the first place. Buying a car isn’t cheap.

So as it stands, it seems like owning a car is more cost-effective than the alternative. Of course, I didn’t explore public transportation, bicycles (Japan spoiled me on those–nothing will ever be as good as biking through Kyoto), and car sharing.

What do you think? Do you currently own a car? If not, what’s your secret? If so, do you think a day will come when you don’t own a car?

14 Responses to “Do You Ever Plan to Not Own a Car?”

  1. I love the idea of living without a car. I live in downtown Denver and have been trying to build my life around my home. Most places are a 10 minute walk away (groceries, post office, hair cut, yoga, etc).

    The hardest part is meeting up with friends. A few live downtown but some live 20 minutes away by car.

    One element in my situation is opportunity cost. I live downtown and can rent my designated parking space for $100/mo. And my insurance is a bit more than yours. I spend about $1,500-2,000 per year on my car and since my car is getting older I’m thinking about the switch.

  2. iainsimmons says:

    I would love to, but the reality is that in Australia the population density is so low unless you’re in the middle of one of the larger cities that you kind of need a car to get around in any reasonable time.

    And I have two young children, and despite being tiny humans, they need an extraordinary amount of stuff whenever we go places. We like to be prepared. So we have a Toyota Prius V, a 7-seater hybrid, so though it is also more expensive to buy than your average car of a similar size, it is obviously much cheaper to run.

    And as you would well know, Toyota’s are extremely reliable and well-built cars! πŸ™‚

  3. Joseph E. Pilkus III says:

    Like the others, I too wish for a day when I can leave the car behind. Living in the suburbs of D.C. and working in Bethesda, MD unfortunately makes public transportation not a viable option. When I retire, however, one of the irons in the fire is living in Indonesia for a few years. There it’s actually more affordable to hire my own, personal driver than to own and maintain a vehicle.

  4. Stephen says:

    Don’t currently own a car, nor do either me or my husband actually drive.

    Our secret is living in a country with half decent public transportation infrastructure.

  5. Charles Dionne says:

    I would love to not have a car but unfortunately with kids and the poor public transportation of New Orleans, it would make it very difficult to not have one. I did managed to make it all the way to age 27 before having my first car so I did better in that regard than the average American! If I were single through, I would love to live a large city like New York where I could walk ride the bus/train/subway to work, grocery store, and other necessary places.

  6. myrheille says:

    I don’t own a car. I live two houses away from my daugther’s school and five minutes away from the grocery store. I live on a main-ish bus line that takes me to work in thirty minutes (while I nap or read). I chose my home specifically to be able to live car-less.

    I don’t mind riding the bus for a long time so I rarely NEED to take a car, but if I had to, I’d take a taxi. And I encourage people to come to my place instead of me having to shlep it all over our urban sprawl πŸ˜‰

  7. TMac says:

    I agree with some of the other posters. When I lived in the heart of Sydney, it was simple to get around without a car, but nearly everything I needed was walkable and public transportation was never more than 10 minutes walk away (great bus system, good light rail, and taxis in a pinch). I think the struggle we face in many US cities is that uber alone doesn’t cut it–it’s not practical from an expense perspective. Living without a car seems to work well in select cities like New York and Boston, which were built with great rail infrastructure and have large enough populations using public transportation to keep costs down and routes plentiful. I’m not sure it’s ever going to be a priority for St. Louis to establish a really good public transportation network for a number of reasons.

  8. Jamey Stegmaier says:

    I’m impressed by the range of these comments! You all with kids make a great point about all the stuff you lug around, and I like the comments about public transportation as well. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I now own an electric car which has been a great decision for me since I don’t go very far, and electricity is much cheaper than gas. I’m not a huge fan of ride sharing…maybe it is just my internal stranger danger alert that makes me cautious to get into a car with strangers. I like the security and convenience of being able to go where ever I like, whenever I like. I think I’ll always want a car for that reason.

  10. Emma says:

    I’m a huge proponent and user of walking, biking and using transit! Kyle and I have lived in St. Louis for almost 12 years and just a year ago we bought a second car (a super old truck for his construction projects). It’s very feasible but it is an adjustment! Also just to add to your totals – parking costs, property taxes, license plates, emission testing, if you spend money on washing or detailing, etc.

  11. I love urban living and, were I in a city with adequate public transportation and dense development, owning a car would become a big question. However, there are a lot of things that I like to do that make owning a car really handy — go fishing, hauling kayaks, family vacations. I think what’s more likely, for me, is that I’ll own a car specifically for those activities — hopefully a long-range electric vehicle, like VW’s ID-Buzz prototype van — and use public transit and occasionally ride sharing to get around in town.

  12. Vincent V. says:

    When your car is already paid and still in good condition, i don’t see a lot of reason to switch. But i’m very near a “decision period” about my car, a 2005 losing the battle against rust. So i’m looking for alternative to buying a new one (new or used).

    In my city, there is a great public transport system, taxi and uber of course, but the main one on my radar is a car sharing service. A lot of cars parked around the city that you can use when you went, how long you want. As a member you also have access to this service in 3 others cities in the province and 4 others Canadian cities. And Paris in France. πŸ™‚

    Do St. Louis has a service like this? It could be a good alternative when your car will no longer be usable.

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